Monday, September 18, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR MONDAY, September 18, 2006 Photo: Iraqis set fire to an effigy of Pope Benedict XVI during a protest in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. Hundreds of angry Iraqis called for the pontiff to be tried in an international court.(AFP/Essam Al-Sudani) (See below) Hundreds of angry Iraqis have demonstrated in the southern port city of Basra against Pope Benedict XVI, burning an effigy of the pontiff and calling for an apology. The protestors, followers of Ayatollah Mahmud al-Hassani, a mystic Shiite cleric who says he's in direct contact with Shiite religious figures, also burned German and American flags. The crowd condemned remarks made by the pope deemed to be insulting to Islam and call for him to be tried in an international court. Followers of Hassani previously attacked the Iranian consulate in Basra when a program on Iranian television appeared to make disparaging remarks about their leader.
An Iraqi militant group vowed a war against the "worshippers of the cross" in response to a recent speech by Pope Benedict on Islam that sparked anger across the Muslim world. "We tell the worshipper of the cross (the Pope) that you and the West will be defeated, as is the case in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya," said an Internet statement by the Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella group led by Iraq's branch of al Qaeda. "We shall break the cross and spill the wine. ... God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome. ... God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen," said the statement.
Two suicide car bombers attacked a police station in the capital of Iraq's restive Anbar province, killing at least two police officers and injuring 26 people, the Interior Ministry said. The al-Arabiya and al-Jazeera television channels, however, reported that 13 people had been killed in the blast in the western part of Ramadi, the provincial capital. The ministry said 18 of the 26 injured were police officers. A suicide bomber killed at least 20 people and wounded 17 others in the northwestern city of Tal Afar. Tal Afar police chief Brig. Sabah Hamidi said that a man wearing an vest loaded with explosives blew himself up in an open-air market just before dark. There were no Iraqi or U.S.-led security forces in the area at the time. No other details were immediately available.
Suicide bomber kills at least 20 in Tal Afar.
OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad Fourteen bodies, tortured and with bullet holes in the head, were found in different districts of Baghdad. Sunday night in Baghdad, armed militants stormed a Shiite shrine and kidnapped a number of worshippers, police sources said. Police said shots were fired as the militants - presumed to be Sunni extremists - stormed the Sayyed Idris mosque and shrine in al- Karada district in central Baghdad. Karbala: Gunmen killed four men in different incidents in the holy Shi'ite city of Kerbala, 110 km (68 miles) south of Baghdad. Baqubah: One blast in Baqouba killed three Iraqi soldiers on patrol. A group attacked a family in their home in Baqouba killing two brothers. Gunmen killed two members of a Shi'ite family and wounded two others as they were leaving their home after receiving death threats in the small town of Hibhib, near Baquba, police said. Four civilians were killed by gunmen in two separate attacks in Baquba, while in a third attack in a city centre market, militants fired on commuters, killing one man and wounding his mother. No information on additional wounded persons or their condition was disclosed. Muqdqdiyah: An armed group attacked and killed two civilians in Muqdadiyah. Hillah: Gunmen killed a former member of the defunct Ba'th Party in Hillah, south of Baghdad. Kut: Three border guards were killed and six wounded by a roadside bomb when they were searching a village near the Iraqi-Iranian border east of Kut, 170 km (105 miles) southeast of Baghdad. Basra: In southern Basra, police found the body of Lt. Col. Fawzi Abdul Karim al-Mousawi, chief of the city's anti-terrorism department. Al-Mousawi was kidnapped late Sunday in front of his house by a group of armed men using two cars. He had been handcuffed and shot seven times. Mosul: Police found the bullet-riddled corpses of four women in different districts of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad. One of the bodies showed signs of torture. Unidentified gunmen killed the security guard of parliament member Osama Al-Najafi whereas another policeman was seriously injured when an explosive device blew up in Mosul, a security source said on Monday. The deceased was a brigadier in charge of the former Iraqi Army accounts. The explosive device exploded when a police patrol was near by and the injured officer was taken to a hospital. Four policemen were killed when insurgents ambushed them in Mosul. A man and a child were wounded when several mortar rounds landed in and around a police station in Mosul. Three civilians were wounded when a roadside bomb went off near an Iraqi army patrol in Mosul. Suwayrah: Gunmen attacked a group of civilians, killing three and wounding another three near the town of Suwayrah southeast of the capital. Baiji: Police found two severed heads that had been tossed from a speeding car into the street as well as a body in the northern town of Baiji. Babil (prov): Three bodies were found in Babil province just south of the capital. In Country: Four policemen were killed by gunmen in the far north of Iraq not far from the Syrian border. >> NEWS Iraq will need US and international forces on the ground until national security forces are prepared to fight and local governments have been elected around the country, Iraqi national security advisor Mowaffak Al-Rubaie said in an interview. "The multinational forces, the coalition forces will be needed in Iraq, for the logistical support, to overwatch the requirement," said Al-Rubaie in an interview with CNN. And US troops will not be able to leave "in the foreseeable future."
Iraq said it will take over security control of a second of its 18 provinces this week in the relatively calm British and Italian-patrolled south. A ceremony will be held on Thursday to mark the handover of Dhi Qar province, currently policed by Italian troops under British command. But a large, self-contained U.S. air base located there will not be handed over.
Australia's Prime Minister John Howard has defended the country's soldiers in Iraq, suggesting they were just "letting off steam" in a series of controversial videos posted on the Internet. One of the videos shows an Australian soldier holding a gun to the head of a man, possibly another soldier, wearing Arab robes and headdress. Details of the 14 clips posted on the Internet were revealed in an article on the Time magazine website, which said they appeared to feature "serious wrongdoing by soldiers during their 2004 and 2005 operations in Baghdad". Other videos show soldiers exposing themselves, wielding pistols in apparent breach of safety protocols and fraternising with Iraqis, which the magazine said could potentially jeopardise their safety. >> REPORTS The predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Fadhel in east Baghdad appears to be the latest battleground with the sounds of explosions resounding from the area on a nightly basis. Residents report repeated assaults by armed outsiders, using mortars and rocket propelled grenades as well as small arms. The military spokesman played down the neighborhood's problems, however, insisting that army patrols met little resistance in the district and found few illegal weapons in their searches. Some 411 US troops in Iraq and 37 in Afghanistan have had wounds that cost them at least one limb, the Army Medical Command says. IEDs AND THE LIMITS OF POSSIBILITY Pentagon officials, who have spent billions of dollars in search of technological countermeasures for roadside bombs, said they may be bumping up against the limits of possibility. As attacks with improvised explosive devices hit an all-time high in Iraq, U.S. military leaders said they will work harder to find and disrupt the organizations that support the bomb makers. Insurgents are detonating 30 to 40 bombs a day, up dramatically in 2006 after falling slightly last year, said retired Gen. Montgomery Meigs, director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. Insurgents carried out 1,200 IED attacks against U.S. troops in August. The monthly number of IED attacks in 2006 is running at four times that of January 2004. When asked whether the increase in attacks indicated the U.S. military was winning the war against insurgents, Meigs, speaking to reporters Sept. 7, declined to comment on "politics," and said his charter was to come up with counters to IEDs. The U.S. military devotes tremendous numbers of troops and materiel to the effort to protect its forces from roadside bombs. Meigs' organization, which leads the U.S. military's anti-IED research, will spend $3.4 billion in 2006 to develop and buy gear, train forces, gather intelligence and perform other duties. (...) This year, the anti-IED organization will spend $1.4 billion just on developing and buying jammers. read in full… INSIDE BAGHDAD: LAST BATTLE OF A STRICKEN CITY Inspired by Islamic history, a plan for a ditch around Baghdad was announced on Friday to try to stem the flow of weapons being smuggled into the capital. 'Trenches will be dug in the coming weeks,' the Interior Ministry spokesman, Brigadier Abdul-Kareem Khalaf, said. 'They will surround Baghdad.' Khalaf said the plan would restrict vehicle and pedestrian traffic to 28 guarded entry points. The idea was inspired by the Battle of Khandaq in AD627, when Prophet Muhammad protected the city of Medina from an army by digging trenches. It may take more to protect the city of Baghdad. From Adhamiya in the north, through the giant teeming Shia slum of Sadr City, to Zafaraniya in the south, a slow boiling but malevolent ethnic cleansing campaign is separating two communities that once lived side by side. In the middle are the US forces. Targeted daily by both Shia and Sunni extremists resisting the occupation, they now find themselves trying to protect each community from the other, even as they fend off the lethal attacks on themselves. Round it goes: the bomb and the bullet. A Sunni car bomb kills Shias at the mosque or at the market. Angry, the Shia death squads abduct and slaughter any Sunnis they can find, who retaliate with more car bombs. And on, and on, all in the name of 'community protection'. It is not quite civil war. Not yet. It is ugly enough, but it lacks the speed and the intensity. Instead, it is a vicious and slow motion three-way fight in which each act is magnified by the spiralling events. Two weeks ago the trigger was in Zafaraniya, a semi-rural area on the outskirts of Baghdad squeezed between the Diyala and the Tigris rivers, surrounded by fields, dense areas of reeds, and towering groves of date palms. Then, Shia pilgrims marching to the shrine at Khadamiya, including a number of Jaish al-Mahdi militia, attacked the scruffy little Sunni Rashid mosque. In the ensuing fighting between mosque guards and the militia, the men of the 320th were forced between the two factions - which on the Jaish al-Mahdi side included members of the local police commando - to try to stop the fighting. read in full... >> COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS ROBERT FISK: THE AMERICAN MILITARY'S CULT OF CRUELTY Each day now, I come across new examples of American military cruelty in Iraq and Afgha-nistan. Here, for example, is Army Specialist Tony Lagouranis, part of an American mobile interrogation team working with US marines, interviewed by Amy Goodman on the American Democracy Now! programme describing a 2004 operation in Babel, outside Baghdad: "Every time Force Recon went on a raid, they would bring back prisoners who were bruised, with broken bones, sometimes with burns. They were pretty brutal to these guys. And I would ask the prisoners what happened, how they received these wounds. And they would tell me that it was after their capture, while they were subdued, while they were handcuffed and they were being questioned by the Force Recon Marines ... One guy was forced to sit on an exhaust pipe of a Humvee ... he had a giant blister, third-degree burns on the back of his leg." Lagouranis, whose story is powerfully recalled in Goodman's new book, Static, reported this brutality to a Marine major and a colonel-lawyer from the US Judge Advocate General's Office. "But they just wouldn't listen, you know? They wanted numbers. They wanted numbers of terrorists apprehended ... so they could brief that to the general." The stories of barbarity grow by the week, sometimes by the day. In Canada, an American military deserter appealed for refugee status and a serving comrade gave evidence that when US forces saw babies lying in the road in Fallujah--outrageously, it appears, insurgents sometimes placed them there to force the Americans to halt and face ambush--they were under orders to drive over the children without stopping. Which is what happens when you always "place the mission first" when you are going to "destroy"--rather than defeat--your enemies. As my American vet put it: "the activities in American military prisons and the hundreds of reported incidents against civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are not aberrations--they are part of what the US military, according to the ethos, is intended to be. Many other armies behave in a worse fashion than the US Army. But those armies don't claim to be the "good guys" ... I think we need... a military composed of soldiers, not warriors." read in full... FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF OBVIOUS PLOT TWISTS When Iraqis were still haggling over the final positions in their "unity government" six months after the election -- with the key disputed position being that of the Interior Minister, who oversees the nation's death squads police officers -- I wrote back in June of the party that had run the ministry for the preceding year, stocking it with loyalists of Shiite militias:
I can't say it's a surprise that SCIRI intends to keep control of the ministry in one way or another; any compromise that keeps SCIRI from picking the actual minister will probably ensure that he has very little powerhow little is likely to change, no matter who is eventually named to the post.
And wouldn't you know it, the New York Times reports this morning:
Shiite militiamen and criminals entrenched throughout Iraq's police and internal security forces are blocking recent efforts by some Iraqi leaders and the American military to root them out, a step critical to winning the trust of skeptical Sunni Arabs and quelling the sectarian conflict, Iraqi and Western officials say. The new interior minister, Jawad al-Bolani, who oversees the police, lacks the political support to purge many of the worst offenders, including senior managers who tolerated or encouraged the infiltration of Shiite militias into the police under the previous government, according to interviews with more than a dozen officials who work with the ministry and the police. . . . There is little accountability. The government has stopped allowing joint Iraqi and American teams to inspect Iraqi prisons. No senior ministry officials have been prosecuted on charges of detainee mistreatment, in spite of fresh discoveries of abuse and torture, including a little-reported case involving children packed into a prison of more than 1,400 inmates. Internal investigations into secret prisons, corruption and other potential criminal activity are often blocked. . . . Mr. Bolani, a Shiite engineer appointed last May, sincerely wants to purge the ministry of Shiite partisans brought in by his predecessor, the officials interviewed said. But his independence from powerful Shiite political leaders - the very quality that earned him the job - also means Mr. Bolani has limited power to remove politically connected subordinates and enact changes. "He's got to be careful about what he does, just to stay alive," the Western diplomat said. . . . a powerful official suspected of aiding the Shiite militias, Adnan al-Asadi - nicknamed Triple A by the Americans - still holds the job of deputy minister of administration. Mr. Asadi is "the one who really runs the M.O.I.," said Saleh Mutlak, a Sunni Arab legislator. Mr. Bolani wants to oust Mr. Asadi but does not have the political backing to do so, leaving American advisers frustrated, said an American official who was not authorized to talk publicly on the subject and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
What can I say? I'm shocked. link >> BEYOND IRAQ Afghanistan: A suicide bomber on a bicycle attacked Canadian troops handing out candy to children in southern Afghanistan killing four soldiers. The blast in Kandahar province's Panjwayi district. Maj. Luke Knittig, a NATO spokesman, said the blast killed four soldiers and ``wounded a number of others, including civilians.'' Knittig declined to release the nationalities of the slain soldiers.
He said 24 children were wounded, four of them in a critical condition, while officials said NATO peacekeepers were also injured.
Spanish convoy attacked in Afghanistan: A roadside bomb exploded to the south of the town of Farah in Afghanistan this morning as a convoy of eight armoured vehicles was passing by, according to a statement from the Defence ministry. The attack took place at 7.35am local time. Nobody was injured and there was no damage to any of the vehicles. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei joined a chorus of Muslim criticism of the head of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, calling the Pope's remarks "the latest chain of the crusade against Islam started by America's (George W.) Bush." A NEW ALL-VOLUNTEER GENERATION OF UUUUS In 2004, the Pentagon instituted a "Moral Waiver Study" whose seemingly benign goal was "to better define relationships between pre-service behaviors and subsequent service success". That turned out to mean opening the recruitment doors to potential enlistees with criminal records. In February, the Baltimore Sun wrote that there was "a significant increase in the number of recruits with what the army terms 'serious criminal misconduct' in their background" - a category that included "aggravated assault, robbery, vehicular manslaughter, receiving stolen property and making terrorist threats". From 2004 to 2005, the number of those recruits had spiked by more than 54%, while alcohol and illegal-drug waivers, reversing a four-year downward trend, increased by more than 13%. In June, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that under pressure to fill the ranks, the US Army had been allowing in increasing numbers of "recruits convicted of misdemeanor crimes, according to experts and military records". In fact, as the military's own data indicated, "The percentage of recruits entering the army with waivers for misdemeanors and medical problems has more than doubled since 2001." (...) The result: US ground forces are increasingly made up of a motley mix of under-age teens, old-timers, foreign fighters, gang-bangers, neo-Nazis, ex-cons, inferior officers and a host of near-mercenary troops, lured in or kept in uniform through big payouts and promises. In the latter half of the Vietnam War, as the breakdown was occurring, US troops began to scrawl "UUUU" on their helmet liners - an abbreviation that stood for "the unwilling, led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary for the ungrateful". The US ground forces of 2007 and beyond, fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan or any other war, may increasingly resemble the collapsing military of the Vietnam War, the band of criminal misfits sent behind enemy lines during World War II in the classic Vietnam-era film The Dirty Dozen, or the janissaries of the old Ottoman Empire. With a growing majority of Americans opposed to the war in Iraq, even ardent hawks refusing in droves to enlist, and the Pentagon pulling out ever more stops and sinking to new lows in recruitment and retention, a new all-volunteer generation of UUUUs may emerge - the underachieving, unable, unexceptional, unintelligent, unsound, unhinged, unacceptable, unhealthy, undesirable, unloved, uncivil, and even un-American, all led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary for the ungrateful. read in full... WHY I HATE AMERICA Why do you hate America?" This is a remarkably easy question to provoke. One might, for instance, expose elements of this nation's brutal foreign policy. Ask a single probing question about, say, U.S. complicity in the overthrow of governments in Guatemala, Iran, or Chile and thin-skinned patriots (sic) will come out of the woodwork to defend their country's honor by accusing you of being "anti-American." Of course, this allegation might lead me to ponder how totalitarian a culture this must be to even entertain such a concept, but I'd rather employ the vaunted Arundhati defense. The incomparable Ms. Roy says: "What does the term 'anti-American' mean? Does it mean you are anti-jazz or that you're opposed to freedom of speech? That you don't delight in Toni Morrison or John Updike? That you have a quarrel with giant sequoias?" (I'm a tree hugger remember? I don't argue with sequoias.) When pressed, I sometimes reply: "I don't hate America. In fact, think it's one of the best countries anyone ever stole." But, after the laughter dies down, I have a confession to make: If by "America" they mean the elected/appointed officials and the corporations that own them, well, I guess I do hate that America-with justification. read in full... QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Based on current usage, there are enough stocks of illegal explosives [in Iraq] to continue the same level of attack for 274 years without re-supply." -- an independent assessment based on British military intelligence quoted in the Army Times excerpt “IEDs and the Limits of Possibility” above


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